How many times do students need to be exposed to learn new words in order to be able to know and use the vocabulary? The reason why 17 is THE number is that educational research2 shows that students need around 17 authentic exposures to new vocabulary before they are truly fluent in knowing the word. They will know it when they read it, hear it and ultimately write it.
First of all, the 17 exposures do not need to all be different, as in ALL of these different formats in this post. However, the exposures should be spaced throughout many days as different encounters with the word.
For example, you have a slideshow presentation introducing the words. A student-friendly definition and an image with a caption are included on the first slides. You may then ask the students the question that includes the vocabulary that they can answer using their schema. In this example, you’ve given the word with its definition, with an image, captioned with a sentence, and a final discussion question. that alone is four meaningful, student-friendly encounters.
1: Slide shows
Typically teachers will create a slide show in order to teach the word. Educational researchers1 say that best practice includes presenting the word enlarged on the screen, student-friendly definition, related image, sentences with the vocabulary embedded, and a question relating the vocabulary on the students’ level. Students can see the word, repeat it, or read aloud a sentence with the teacher. Throughout, the teacher then models the correct pronunciation, spelling, and use of the vocabulary.
2: Paper bracelets
Pre-printed strip of paper that’s meant to be glued together end-to-end around the student’s wrist. Most appropriate for elementary students, especially primary students, for the purpose of sharing the word learning with parents and others.
3: Anchor charts
This is a chart that is created by the teacher with the students. You’re basically creating a large poster on chart paper centered around the content. They are typically written and drawn out with the students right there in front of you, but some teachers print off certain portions of it (if they aren’t the best at drawing) or even print it out as a poster.
Images can be a picture that is printed or displayed digitally. The purpose of the image is to visualize the vocabulary in a meaningful way. Some teachers are all for showing images with the vocabulary word. Others think that students need to develop their own images of vocabulary to build upon students’ own schema.
Pre-printed display on paper that shows the word the meaning and examples for the purpose I’m reminding students of the vocabulary. if it’s up on the wall, student see it more often, can refer to it, and realize the urgency of knowing the word.
6: Word bank
A list of words that are meant to be used in short or long-form writing. Typically the word bank has words that must be used in a short paragraph or story made up by the students.
7: Vocabulary through drama
What is it? Groups of students act out a word in front of other students for them to guess the word they were acting out. The teacher will need to pre-teach the words to the students beforehand. There is a limit of how many words students would choose from in order to make it possible to guess. Students are in small groups, and everyone must participate. If shy students don’t know what to do, they can be a prop (door, table, tree, etc.).
The teacher or students add a caption to something within the learning environment using the vocabulary in the phrase or sentence. (sticky notes added to any picture, poster, bulletin board)
Written or typed words on a card or small piece of paper meant for student activity. Cards can easily be used for a quick review or a short game at the small group table.
10: Word wall vocabulary
Written or typed words on a card or small piece of paper. The card is put up on a “wall”, that doesn’t have to be a wall. Teachers find places to build a word wall: cupboard doors to a file folder each student might possess. Sometimes the cards have an image to go along with the text of the word. The cards can be organized in alphabetical order or theme.
11: Sentence Starters
Embedding the vocabulary into a question for students to answer or expand for discussion can be powerful for comprehension. Having a set of sentence starters for you, as a teacher, can be helpful when you’re planning to embed a word.
The teacher prompts students to answer an extended response question. Lots of teacher modeling is important for this to be a successful vocabulary building strategy.
Take advantage of the lessons based on a theme or a certain time of the year to add in tier 2 vocabulary. Embedding the vocabulary into lessons with a specific theme gives students the chance to hear, see, and read words within a context of interest.
14: Digital eBooks
Books help students to read the vocabulary with other sight words or grade level words. These are the books that I use with my first graders. They are also appropriate for kindergarten and second grade. The text is meant to be easily read by young readers, with repetitive phrases and an image to go with the text.
15: Sticky notes
What is it? Give students sticky notes to record text responses using vocabulary right on the working text. This is a form of interactive writing and can be a shared writing as well.
Teachers find videos that related the vocabulary word explicitly or implicitly. After students view the video, the teacher discusses how the video relates the real world with the vocabulary.
17: Interactive notebooks
What is it? A printable page meant for students to cut and glue into a notebook. The page typically has doors or windows for students to write under the flaps. An easy way to have students input vocabulary in the notebook is to just have them write the word and draw a picture.
In all of these different teaching processes, students will be using the words in various ways. Overall, if you teach with many of these examples, you will see reading comprehension soar.
- ASCD. (2009, September). The art and science of teaching / six steps to better vocabulary instruction. Retrieved February 07, 2021, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept09/vol67/num01/Six-Steps-to-Better-Vocabulary-Instruction.aspx
- McKeown, M., Beck, I., Omanson, R., & Pople, M. (1985). Some Effects of the Nature and Frequency of Vocabulary Instruction on the Knowledge and Use of Words. Reading Research Quarterly, 20(5), 522-535. doi:10.2307/747940